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  March 26th, 2021 | Written by

How has E-Commerce Adapted During the COVID-19 Outbreak?

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  • By far, food and groceries were sold the most via online channels.
  • Even with this spike in online sales, most purchases, in fact, over 80%, still happened in stores.

The pandemic had a massive impact on the retail industry. People were driven to the safety of their homes, which was an opportunity that e-commerce did not miss. E-commerce adapted during the COVID-19 outbreak with ease, in such a way that had never been seen before.

E-commerce growth was documented even before the COVID-19 outbreak

Over the past ten years, e-commerce sales have grown from 13% to 18% approximately every year. The consistency is simply astonishing. The difference from offline sales is substantial because retail stores haven’t increased their sales by more than 4% for more than 16 years now.

2020 was the most successful year for e-commerce

Because most retail stores and shops all over the world closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, people needed a different shopping channel. E-commerce proved to be a safe way to purchase food and other necessities. With that said, it is not strange that the increase in online sales for the last year went up by a whopping 32.4%! Overall, e-commerce shops achieved sales in the value of over $270 billion! By some predictions, that level of increase in online sales would have happened around 2022 or later if it hadn’t been for the pandemic to speed up the process. Offline sales also had an increase of 6.9%.

How e-commerce grew by product category

E-commerce adapted during the COVID-19 outbreak at a fast pace. Let’s see what product categories had the highest jump in sales.

Food and groceries online sales

By far, food and groceries were sold the most via online channels. The jump in online sales was over 100%. In fact, around 17% of people in the United States had their first online shopping experience last year. The need for social distancing and a mandatory curfew in countries worldwide made people stay at home. So, the only way of acquiring groceries was through an online delivery system.

Toy sales jumped through the roof

It is not strange to say that toy sales jumped through the roof in the last year. Stuck in their homes for most of the day, people craved a little bit of fun and excitement. Video games and puzzles were the most sold items, closely followed by musical instruments. The increase in sales was by over 63% since 2019. The overall profit of toy stores was somewhere around $1 billion, which is a jump of 500% in online sales from the previous year. It is even more amazing to say that online sales of toys and games jumped by 1000% in the first two months of the pandemic.

People still need physical activity

Gyms all over the world suffered a defeat thanks to the COVID-19 outbreak. However, the European gym and fitness equipment market increased online sales of home fitness goods, and the same thing happened in the United States. It is good to know that people still need to exercise, even if prevented from going out.

Before the lockdown, sporting goods retailers had a steady jump in sales by +45% over the past few years. The most sold items were bicycles and rollerblades.

However, when the gyms shut, the online sales of gym equipment for homes increased by over 100%. What is impressive is that stores that didn’t previously sell online, nor did curbside pickup delivery, launched these channels in less than 48 hours.

The COVID-19 pandemic was the right time for house remodeling projects

When the pandemic started, there was a noticeable increase in people moving to the suburbs. Living in a less populated area sounded like an excellent way to stay protected and follow social distancing rules. As a result, suburban housing and furniture sales propelled the American reconstituted wood product market.

Furthermore, people used the opportunity to make massive home improvements and start remodeling projects they were postponing for months or years. Also, the online sales of home improvement products substantially increased by 52% thanks to the people moving into their new homes.

Nonessential items also had an increase in sales

Nonessential items belong to those categories that didn’t have a direct connection with the shift in the shoppers’ habits caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. These include car parts, clothes, jewelry, flowers, and similar categories. However, even those online sales jumped by more than 30% since the last year. The growth increase was a bit slower than the essential markets, which is not that strange.

E-commerce adapted during the COVID-19 outbreak, but what comes after?

It is true; e-commerce adapted during the COVID-19 outbreak at a fantastic speed. However, what can we expect in the years to come? Without a doubt, this trend of using online sales will continue even after the pandemic is over. Nevertheless, the retail industry should not be concerned for the time being. Even with this spike in online sales, most purchases, in fact, over 80%, still happened in stores. The majority of people are slowly getting used to the benefits of online shopping. We are all creatures of habits, and habits die hard. It does not come as a surprise that the benefit of staying at home while shopping is growing closer to our hearts with every passing day.


Kayla Jenkins is a passionate blogger and writer for Best Movers NYC, with a degree in economics and marketing. Encouraged by the recent fluctuations in the retail industry, she now focuses on exploring the effects of the pandemic on the future of online and offline sales.